Duties to Oneself, Duties of Respect to Others Allen Wood Stanford University Kant’s division of duties

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1 Kant’s writings will be cited according to the following system of abbreviations:
Ak Immanuel Kants Schriften. Ausgabe der königlich preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1902-). Unless otherwise footnoted, writings of Immanuel Kant will be cited by volume:page number in this edition.
Ca Cambridge Edition of the Writings of Immanuel Kant (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992-) This edition provides marginal Ak volume:page citations. Specific works will be cited using the following system of abbreviations (works not abbreviated below will be cited simply as Ak volume:page):
G Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785), Ak 4

Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals, Ca Practical Philosophy

Translations below will be taken from Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, translated by Allen W. Wood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).
KpV Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788), Ak 5

Critique of practical reason, Ca Practical Philosophy

MS Metaphysik der Sitten (1797-1798), Ak 6

Metaphysics of morals, Ca Practical Philosophy
MVT Über das Misslingen aller philosophischen Versuche in der Theodicee, Ak 8

On the miscarriage of all philosophical trials in theodicy, Ca Religion and Rational Theology

R Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft, Ak 6

Religion within the boundaries of mere reason, Ca Religion and Rational Theology

RML Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen, Ak 8

On a supposed right to lie from philanthropy, Ca Practical Philosophy

SF Streit der Fakultäten, Ak 7

Conflict of the Faculties, Ca Religion and Rational Theology

VA Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht (1798), Ak 7

Anthropology from a pragmatic standpoint, Ca Anthropology, History and Education
VE Vorlesungen über Ethik, Ak 27, 29, Cited by volume:page number

Lectures on Ethics, Ca Lectures on Ethics

2 See John Rawls, “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory: The Dewey Lectures 1980,” Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980); Rawls (ed. B. Herman), Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 167-175, 235-252; Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Onora O’Neill, Constructions of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 206-219.

3 For more on this see my book Kant’s Ethical Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Chapter 3.

4 See Kant’s Ethical Thought, Chapter 4.

5 See, for example, Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981), p. 7.

6 On this topic, see Lara Denis, Moral Self-Regard: Duties to Oneself In Kant’s Moral Theory (New York: Garland, 2001); and Andrews Reath, “Self-Legislation and Duties to Oneself,” in Mark Timmons (ed.) Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals: Interpretive Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 349-370.

7 See Kant’s Ethical Thought, pp. 238-243.

8 Regarding the institution of marriage, Kant departs from the traditional view that its purpose is the procreation and upbringing of children. Instead, marriage is a matter of right, an arrangement that permits human beings to engage in sexual activity (which Kant regards as inherently a threat to the dignity of their humanity) without violating the rights of humanity in the person of the sexual partners (especially of the woman, for whom the unequal status involved in physical weakness and economic dependence makes her especially vulnerable to being dominated and used as a mere means to the man’s pleasure) (MS 6:277-280). While Kant’s view that sex is inherently degrading will seem unhealthy or even monstrous to many of us today, we should not fail to acknowledge the justice of his claim, which feminists still rightly insist on, that sexual activity can pose a threat to the rights of humanity (especially in the case of women), and that the juridical order of society needs to make provision for their protection. On the other hand, it is far from evident that monogamous marriage is adequate for this purpose. Kant seems to think that the dignity of sexual partners is protected if they are granted the exclusive right to have access to their partner’s sexual capacities (MS 6:278). But there seems to be no protection against what might seem to us some of the worst violations of right threatened by sexual activity. In the course of arguing that it might be excessive “purism” to condemn sex when its aim is pleasure apart from any reproductive aim, Kant lists among the circumstances in which sexual activity might be permitted the case where the wife “feels no desire for intercourse” (MS 6:426). It is not difficult to imagine that marriages in Kant’s day, or even in our own, sometimes involve intercourse under those conditions, where the wife is a more or less unwilling participant in her husband’s pleasure. But one might have thought that this would be something from which Kant would want juridical institutions to protect her. Sexual exclusivity – the fact that she is the only woman from whom her husband can get sexual pleasure unwillingly – does not seem much protection against the violation of human dignity involved here. No doubt sexual fidelity serves most people as an indispensable part of the understanding through which they can maintain intimacy and mutual trust as life-partners. But there seems no good argument, based on either the dignity or the rights of humanity, why partnerships might not involve some different kind of understanding. The best means for protecting the dignity of women in sexual relations would seem to be economic independence, combined with more permissive and egalitarian sexual mores, that do not intrude on the privacy of human beings or penalize women disproportionately for their sexual choices. When it comes to sex, the biggest threat today to both the rights of humanity and human dignity are unenlightened attempts to impose the regimen of “family values”: no sex outside monogamous heterosexual marriage – in other words, to enforce the very rules regarding sexuality that Kant favors on the (now totally implausible) pretext that they protect human rights and human dignity.

9 See Nelson Potter, “Duties to Oneself, Motivational Internalism and Self-Deception in Kant’s Ethics,” in M. Timmons, Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, op. cit., pp. 371-390.


 For further treatment of this theme, see Thomas E. Hill,Jr., “Servility and Self-Respect,” in Autonomy and Self-Respect (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Jeanine Grenberg, Kant and the Ethics of Humility:  A Story of Dependence,Corruption and Virtue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

11 For a good account of this topic, which, however, is on some points at odds with what is said here, see Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Human Welfare and Moral Worth (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), Chapters 9 and 11.

12 On this last point, see Stephen Engstrom, “The Inner Freedom of Virtue,” in Timmons (ed.) Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, op. cit., pp. 289-316.

13 See Paul Dietrichson, “What does Kant mean by ‘cting from duty?” in R. P. Wolff (ed.) Kant: A collection of critical essays (Garden City, NJ: Anchor, 1967).

14 “Kant on duties regarding non-rational nature,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume LXXII (1998), pp. 189-210.

15 Kant’s Ethical Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Ch. 9; and “Religion, Ethical Community and the Struggle against Evil,” Faith and Philosophy 17, 4 (October, 2000), pp. 498-511.

16 No doubt the dignity of humanity in human beings entails that their lives are of great value, since not to care about the survival of a human being is surely to treat them with contempt. But this does not necessarily entail that the life of a human being cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the lives of others, if this happens in such a way that the value of the human being is still respected (as, perhaps, when the person rationally consents, or the sacrifice occurs only of necessity and according to a plan to which all involved do rationally consent, or should rationally consent). To think otherwise may result from confusing an existing or “self-sufficient” end – that is, something existing whose value requires that it be shown due respect – with an end to be produced – a possible future state of affairs to be brought about. This might lead us to infer invalidly from “X is an existing end whose value cannot be sacrificed” to “X’s continued existence, as a future state of affairs, must be brought about, no matter what the cost.”

17 For this reason, metaethical antirealists behave inconsistently if they ever show respect for anything at all. (Antirealists will no doubt hasten to show that they can reconstruct in antirealist terms some psychological facsimile of respect for objective value, without actually being committed to objective values. This shows, however, only that they might be capable of mustering some false facsimile of respect for the things to which they direct this artificially constructed attitude, not that they are capable of honestly respecting anything. Perhaps they do honestly respect some things; but in so doing they act in a manner that is inconsistent with their metaethical convictions.) Since respect is a fundamental attitude in Kantian ethics, Kantian principles can be properly interpreted in metaethical terms only as some kind of metaethical realism. Kant himself, however, did not directly address twentieth century metaethical issues, and no direct warrant for ascribing any metaethical view at all to him can be found in his writings.

18 See Kant’s Ethical Thought, pp. 132-139, 250-265, 283-291.

19 “…Thou, He [the honorific use of the third person in addressing someone], Ye [The honorific use of the plural familiar in addressing an individual], and You [the polite form of address still used in German], or Your most noble, high noble, high nobly born, well born (Oh, that is enough!” Kant’s Latin exclamation of disgust is a quotation from Horace, Satires 1.5.12.

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